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Ego States, Anchors and Triggers – Chapter Twelve

Ego States, Anchors and Triggers – Chapter Twelve

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Evoke the power of positive states – you’ve got them!

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We have looked at the ego as the accumulation of negative limiting beliefs. Let’s look at this in a bit more detail. Let’s say that each negative belief is a mini trauma from the past that was formed during a state of fear. The fear may have formed a feeling of helplessness or a feeling of not being worthy, of not being approved of. It could, for example, also be just insecurity that formed through loss or a feeling of not being safe or just being scared. It could have come from a time when we were bullied by someone, or maybe, as a young child, when we had just lost our parents in a supermarket. Or possibly a time when we felt abandoned, rejected or unable to live up to our parents’ expectations. The possibilities are endless. The resultant beliefs are based on a fear of lack, a lack of approval, of control, of security.

At the time of this trauma, a state of fear would have presented itself, resulting in the flight or fight response – a basic physiological survival mechanism in response to a threat; a threat that could be physical or emotional in form. A belief is formed to protect us from future threats. In the event of a future threat, the belief will form a state of fear – an ego state similar to the initial event; a feeling of not being safe; or of being unworthy, just to name a few. These beliefs are limiting us from reaching our full potential, they keep us stuck.

We don’t only have negative beliefs, we also have positive beliefs. These beliefs are usually built from an accumulation of positive things that happen to us: having loving supporting and encouraging parents; standing up for ourselves against a bully, or protecting a friend or younger sibling and being treated with respect. It could come from our achievements at school or in sport, or from overcoming a perceived problem. The beliefs formed create feelings of confidence, empowerment, worthiness, approval and security. These beliefs don’t limit us; they grow as we build on them. They create positive states. When we feel threatened, the negatively threatened ego state will rise to the executive position and take control to protect us. It will take charge to become the dominant state. When this happens we sometimes no longer have access to the more positive states.

The negative ego states are anchored to an event. Similar events or situations will trigger an emotional fear response and this may result in a phobia of sorts. The things that can trigger this response are many and varied – often just imagined. A fear of public speaking has its roots in the past, as do phobias about snakes, flying or lifts, etc. The triggered ego state creates the anxiety – the fear of the future that dominates the imagination with this perceived threat. Logically the mind knows that there isn’t anything to fear, but the subconscious is not rational or logical. The ego state refuses to listen to the logical mind; it takes control. In this state, other more positive states are ignored and protection is paramount. The traumatized ego state is running the show.

The ego states are a function of the thought/feeling system but many negative ego states can be established from a response to a traumatic physical threat. For example, my own feeling of claustrophobia was experienced when trying to snorkel for the first time. My inability to take a breath with my head under water may well have come from breathing in water at bath time as a baby. This was overcome through desensitization by repeated practice with a snorkel – just as the phobia of speaking in public can be overcome through desensitisation by practice.

I had a client who told me she would spontaneously vomit at the smell of a certain aftershave. She was gang raped at the age of fourteen and one of the rapists was wearing this aftershave when it happened. It was a subconscious reaction. I am continually amazed at how much pain we humans can inflict on each other – especially emotional pain that can last a lifetime unless resolved. And most of the time, the perpetrator is probably unaware of the extent of the damage they actually create by their actions. It, in most cases, must be a result of the damage done to them at some time in the past.

I had a client who told me she would spontaneously vomit at the smell of a certain aftershave. She was gang raped at the age of fourteen and one of the rapists was wearing this aftershave when it happened. It was a subconscious reaction. I am continually amazed at how much pain we humans can inflict on each other – especially emotional pain that can last a lifetime unless resolved. And most of the time, the perpetrator is probably unaware of the extent of the damage they actually create by their actions. It, in most cases, must be a result of the damage done to them at some time in the past.

A sales company sent one of their sales representatives to me for sales development. During one session we identified four potential new customers who could increase his sales and margins by 20 plus percent. He was given the task of setting up appointments with them. He returned two weeks later and made every excuse as to why he hadn’t had the time to make contact. The negative ego state, fearing rejection, which is the want for approval, had created the procrastination. I had him imagine a time when he felt really confident, not concerned with failure or rejection. He thought about his time as a junior footy coach, a time when his football team was playing in a final. They hadn’t expected to get that far, and he told the team it wasn’t about winning but about playing the game to the best of their abilities. Regardless of the result he would be proud of them for trying. They won the game. I had him imagine giving this pep talk to his team and getting all the feelings associated with this event. I then had him clap his hands and rub the palms of his hands vigorously together so he could feel the heat from the friction between the palms, while saying in his mind, ‘okay, let’s just do it.’ I told him to practise this over the next week. And anytime he felt he was putting things off, to clap his hands and rub the palms together while saying in his mind, ‘okay, let’s just do it.’

The purpose of this action is to anchor a positive resource – a positive state to a past positive experience. We can then trigger, through this anchor, the state of the positive experience when needed, to overcome the negative ego state. By the following appointment with me he had made contact and had appointments with the new potential customers. He had also found them quite accommodating and realised there had been nothing to fear but the fear itself.

Image 1The way we feel is usually a result of the dominant state at the time.

 

 

This simple anchor and trigger technique can be very powerful. I use it in my work with athletes to get them focused or fired up, or for public speaking to create a strong expectation of a positive result. It can also be used for phobias, such as flying, to motivate and push past the fear, or overcome situational anxiety such as pre-exam nerves, or social anxiety. It is designed to trigger a positive expectation and overcome procrastination from a base of positive states. Change your state and you change your mind and the way you feel. The way we feel is always a result of the dominant state at the time.

Anchors and triggers can be many and varied, and sometimes we don’t realise we are triggering negative ego states. Our state is often reflected in our posture. A person feeling depressed will sit with head bowed and shoulders slumped. Just changing the posture by pulling shoulders back, head up or putting a smile on the face can change that state and the way we feel. Most followers of sport have seen the posture of a team that has already given in to defeat – they have dropped their heads, we might say. What they have actually done is to change their state to one resigned to defeat and failure, and this is reflected in their posture. It’s hard to feel bad when you are smiling

Let’s cover the technique to anchor and trigger a positive state. First, we must access a positive experience from the past where we felt confident and motivated, or we can create this from an imagined future experience. For example, in public speaking we can imagine giving the presentation, being dynamic and giving it with confidence and passion. We are creating all the feelings we would feel hearing the applause and kind words afterwards.

Let’s cover the technique to anchor and trigger a positive state. First, we must access a positive experience from the past where we felt confident and motivated, or we can create this from an imagined future experience. For example, in public speaking we can imagine giving the presentation, being dynamic and giving it with confidence and passion. We are creating all the feelings we would feel hearing the applause and kind words afterwards.

I can’t help but be excited and motivated to action by just rubbing my hands together. This trigger gets me excited. I use it prior to giving workshops and seminars. It is also useful when I need to get motivated to do an account reconciliation or quarterly tax statement – not amongst my favorite chores!
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Our vocabulary also triggers ego states.

I have long since dropped the words ‘angry’ and ‘frustrated’ from my vocabulary and replaced them with ‘perturbed’ and ’interesting’. I have no ego state that can latch onto the word ‘perturbed’. In fact the word makes me laugh to myself. I have never developed an ego state association with the word perturbed the way I have developed an association with the word angry. If I say to myself that I am angry, an angry ego state pops up. If I say I am frustrated, a frustrated ego state pops up. If I say that’s interesting, I become the observer of the situation and not a frustrated participant. Hate is another triggered ego state that is often used with such abandon – from food to traffic jams or people or professions or even work. ’I hate being stuck in traffic’, you might say, without realising how it will make you feel. It can’t help but make you feel bad, and yet it isn’t good or bad; it just is. Why feel bad about something you have no control over? The negative words you use to describe your situation will trigger a negative ego state and the associated feelings.

I often tell a client who presents with depression to remove the word ‘depression’ from their vocabulary. It represents a long dark tunnel with no end in sight. I tell them to say they are down, and they can pick themselves up; or sad, and they can do something to make themselves happy. With anxiety I will tell them to say they are just scared, and ask themselves ‘what am I scared of?’ A lot of the time they are just scared of being anxious! A fear of fear.

Our negative words are often anchors from the past that will trigger the negative ego state. Remove the negative words from your thoughts and conversation and you can’t help but feel better. Use positive self-talk especially when talking about yourself, or your life situation to yourself or to others and improve the way you feel. If you are using disconnecting habits on yourself with your-self talk, you reinforce the ego and the negative state.

Let your posture reflect the way you want to feel – confident, relaxed, alert and happy. If you are happy, you will infect others with your happiness. Let your words be positive, not negative, and learn to trigger positive states then notice the difference in the way you feel.

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